NFL Total Points Line

NFL Total Points Line

If the tightrope walk of handicap betting does not appeal to you, the second most popular form of American football wagering - the total points line -may well.

In the same way as the handicap, the Vegas gurus set their idea of the total number of points scored in each game and punters bet either over (more points than the nominated figure) or under (fewer points).

For successful totals bets, keep defences and weather at the forefront of your thinking.

Like football and rugby, pitch conditions and the prevailing temperature, precipitation and wind can have a dramatic effect on the number of points scored in a game.

Extreme conditions are the most obvious route to profit. In the infamous Snow Bowl AFC Championship final between Oakland and New England, the eventual total of 29 points (overtime is always included in total points and handicap bets) was about the most the two sides were ever going to produce in a virtual snowdrift, while Oakland's farcical 24-0 victory over Kansas City in a paddy field was another victory for those who noted the extreme forecast and played the under.

Forecasts for all US cities are widely available on the net and www.weather.com even has a dedicated page with links to the expected conditions for all the week's contests. Do not underestimate the impact high winds can have on a total either, as gusts can make long passes more difficult and also reduce the prospect of kicks being converted.

It's also handy to be aware which teams play indoors - don't put the farm on the under in snowswept Minneapolis while the Vikings are involved in a shootout in their cosy Metrodome home.

Defences, rather than offences tend to be the key factor in determining the points total and this is where punters can find an edge. That is to say good defensive players, organised by a shrewd coach, can stop anyone from scoring - witness the way Baltimore, Tampa Bay and New England have ground their way to Super Bowl success with dour safety-first offence and a stifling rearguard.

Similarly any team will find a way to score against a bad defensive team - receivers don't have to be that good to break free from a slow defensive back who can't cover well, and nor do running backs have to be that prolific to blast past linebackers who can't tackle.

The only word of warning when seeking out top defences in order to bet the under is be aware that defences score points too, through interception returns and fumble recoveries.